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'It’s All in the Timing': Can Meal Timing Improve PCOS?

Posted by Allie on 10th January 2016

The effects of increasing caloric intake at breakfast on insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in women with PCOS
Photo: Pixabay.com

Women with PCOS are often advised to lose weight to help manage symptoms and improve their chances of getting pregnant. However, not all women with the condition are overweight and weight loss is therefore not an appropriate option for all.

Researchers (1) have now found that lean women with PCOS, i.e. those with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 23.7 kg/m2, may benefit from a meal plan which aims to manage insulin levels rather than weight loss. Many women with PCOS, whether they are overweight or not, are insulin resistant – this means they produce excessive levels of insulin which can stimulate testosterone and lead to problems such as weight gain, hormonal imbalances, and fertility issues.

Sixty women with PCOS and a normal BMI were randomly assigned to two groups. Both groups ate identical foods of 1,800 calories a day with the only difference being the time they ate their higher calorie meal. The first group ate their higher calorie meal for breakfast between 6.00am and 9.00am: they ate 983 calories at breakfast, 645 calories at lunch, and a 190 calorie dinner. The second ate a higher calorie dinner between 6.00pm and 9.00pm: they had a 190 calories breakfast, a 645 calories lunch, and a 983 calories dinner.

The researchers found that the women in the breakfast group experienced a significant decrease in insulin resistance and testosterone, and had a greater feeling of fullness compared with the group who ate the higher calorie dinner. Other studies have also found that morning is a critical time in terms of maintaining a healthy metabolism. Eating a larger dinner was not found to worsen insulin resistance in the study. However, the researchers concluded that eating the larger amount of daily calories in the morning can lead to improved insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, and increase ovulation.

Reference

1: Jakubowicz, D. et al. 2013. Effects of caloric intake timing on insulin resistance and hyperandrogenism in lean women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Clinical Science. 125 (9): 423-432

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